Piracy in waters off the coast of Somalia
In 2008, the number
of reported piracy attacks off East Africa rose astronomically. Barely a day
seemed to pass without a new incident being reported. Figures compiled by IMO
show that, in the first quarter of 2008, there were 11 piracy attacks in that
region, rising to 23 in the second quarter and rocketing to 50 in the third
and 51 in the fourth quarters, making a total of 135 attacks during 2008, resulting
in 44 ships having been seized by pirates and more than 600 seafarers having
been kidnapped and held for ransom.
Any act of piracy and armed robbery can impact on human life, the safety of navigation and the environment. Piracy is a criminal act, which not only affects the victims but also has severe financial repercussions.
The three areas of concern to IMO, particularly relevant to the situation off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, can be summed up as:
Regional cooperation among States has an important role to play in solving the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships, as evidenced by the success of the regional anti-piracy operation in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP), which was concluded in November 2004 by 16 countries in Asia, and includes the RECAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) for facilitating the sharing of piracy-related information, is a good example of successful regional cooperation which IMO seeks to replicate elsewhere.
In January 2009, an important regional agreement was adopted in Djibouti by States in the region, at a high-level meeting convened by IMO. The Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden recognizes the extent of the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region and, in it, the signatories declare their intention to co operate to the fullest possible extent, and in a manner consistent with international law, in the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships.
The signatories commit themselves towards sharing and reporting relevant information through a system of national focal points and information centres; interdicting ships suspected of engaging in acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships; ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships are apprehended and prosecuted; and facilitating proper care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers, fishermen, other shipboard personnel and passengers subject to acts of piracy or armed robbery against ships, particularly those who have been subjected to violence.
Implementation of the Djibouti Code of Conduct will help to:
IMO has also revised the guidance on measures to take to deter piracy, to include region-specific guidance based on industry best management practice.
IMO is also seeking additional support from States able to provide warships and maritime patrol aircraft for the Gulf of Aden and Western Indian Ocean area and is focusing on bringing the recently opened Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres in Mombasa and Dar es Salaam into the counter piracy role.
In the longer term, IMO is seeking to promote international action to stabilize the situation in Somalia through the UN Security Council, the UN Political Office for Somalia, the UN Development Programme, the Contact Group on Piracy off Somalia, and others.
In the case of the situation off Somalia, developments ashore are probably the only way to resolve this problem in the long term.
In the meantime, it is essential to maintain support from States able to provide warships and maritime patrol aircraft until the political situation is resolved.